Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Apparatus

The machine of society is constructed in two areas. The area of science (the known), constituted as laws and utilized by factories; and the area of art (the theoretical, constituted by civil discussion and utilized by leaders.

There is nothing wrong with constructing a machine to handle what is known, insofar as it is available for use by all. Factories became an important part of our economy in the early 20th Century, and have evolved from the literal industrial form into big box stores and other business models. The more tasks can be gotten "down to a science," more machines can take over those tasks. This is desirable because it frees people to solve more organic problems which require human creativity.

The problem arises when a mechanical solution is applied to these organic problems. That is, when the machine attempts to arbitrate the theoretical, semi-unknown aspects of society, it must err by definition. I say this because, by its very nature, a machine can only work with rational systems. Humans create irrational problems that cannot be solved by a rational system.

Nevertheless, when societies realize that easy but tedious work can be handled by a machine, they inevitably desire that the same machine would handle the difficult work as well. So they create arbitrating systems that attempt to manipulate nature into a predictable form, like cyborg mechanisms grafted into a human body. This collective, I call the "Apparatus."

There is a vast selection of illustrations of this basic concept to be found in Science Fiction. Indeed, I believe that the central resonating theme of high quality sci-fi is based primarily upon this concept. In every example of machines attempting to emulate or intermingle with human emotions, terrible calamity ensues. One can argue that it is merely fiction, of course, but if that is so, then why does it move us so?

Possibly, the prevalence of such themes is owed merely to a popular, yet unfounded fear—brought on by an innate paranoia that we humans will some day cease to be masters of our world. That assertion is fair enough, but I would ask: which came first? Is there a fundamental reason to fear this, which prompts us to demand media which reminds us? Or did media creators stumble upon an latent fear, which they began exploiting for profit?

As I learn more about the big picture, I realize that it is both. Who can say which came first? Certainly, however, society must be wary of any machine that attempts to do what it cannot do. If media can be so constituted to remind us of this potential, so much the better. But if media goes so fair as to perpetuate irrational fears of, say, a literal zombie invasion—then the mainstream won't take the metaphoric warning seriously.

And that would be a calamity.
FEATURED MEDIA: Metropolis - A massive structure called the "Ziggurat" is meant to be a symbol of man's power, but becomes a terrible menace when a confused girl takes control of it. She is a life-like android model of a human, so real she is uncertain what she is.

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